Dr David Adkins – The Quiet American

Dr David Adkins

Sturt Basketball Club

I first became acquainted with David Adkins in 1980, when I was recruiting a US player for the Sturt Basketball Club in Adelaide. We hit it off immediately after being impressed with his honesty and ethics, a genuine all round good guy.

That player Bruce Kucera served Sturt very well and could have easily played NBL had the opportunity arisen.

David and I have been friends ever since and we went on to have a number of dealings with each other during my time with the Adelaide 36ers.
I have been able to visit with him on a couple of occasions , once in Des Moines and once in Chicago where we managed to take in a Chicago Bulls home game where Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley guarded each other, with MJ having 24 points in the first quarter finishing with 45. Sir Charles had 39, now that crossed one off the Bucket List.

This native of Iowa, Doc Adkins is largely unknown to most current NBL fans but is truly an unsung hero of the league and responsible for much of the leagues success since it was started in 1979. David , now spends his time between Des Moines and then avoids the harsh Iowa winter moving down to Corpus Christi, returning for the Summer.

He grew up in Grinnell Iowa and is a graduate of Cornell College at Mt Vernon where he was a Basketball letterman and following College has had many roles in Basketball worldwide, including player, coach, administrator and International player recruiter.

He holds fond memories of his involvement with South Dakota State U and the title winning Iowa AAU team. It is in his roles as Coach and recruiter however that he has left his mark on Australia.

Doc has also been a University lecturer for many years , tutoring Spanish .
His first love however was Basketball and it has taken him on a long journey, spending time in many countries including Mozambique where he coached the Africa – Academia and All Stars Tour, Okinawa and Australia.
His first contact with Australia saw him appointed as the State Director of Junior Coaching in Queensland in 1978 , the year prior to the formation of the NBL and he helped the Brisbane Bullets recruit Cal Bruton ( Wichita ), Dan Hickert ( Kansas State ), Brian Banks ( Nebraska ) and Ton Gerhardt ( Illinios ) in their first year.

In those early days, player payments were very low, not enough to live on, so players had to also seek other employment, usually arranged by the clubs and it often involved making appearances for the club or running school clinics on behalf of club sponsors.


Doc then went on in conjunction with the QABA and the US NAIA to create and instigate the formation of the AAABL – The Australian American Amateur Basketball League which operated exclusively in Queensland and which was instrumental in rapidly developing the standard of Basketball in the Sunshine State.

1979 NAIA players in Australian-American League at Auchenflower Stadium, Brisbane, Australia. David Adkins top left, Dave Nelson (12), LeRoy Loggins (9), and Lenzy Houston – first row, 5th player left to right. These three developed basketball careers in Australia. Nelson was an NBL All-Star and Loggins an NBL legend.

Doc then further cemented his influence on Basketball in Australia , when in 1986 he was appointed the Head Coach of the Hobart Tassie Devils who played out of the old Kingborough Sports Centre , once described by NBL CEO Bill Palmer during a TV broadcast as “ anachronistic “ – had to look that one up – old fashioned and out of date, thanks Bill.

In this role Doc redefined his role as a player recruiter and managed to bring some great import players to the Devils on an extremely limited budget, the list is very very impressive.

The coaching stint at Hobart was not a highly sought after Gig , for example in his first year , they had only one paid player, but considering their lack of resources , he did a very creditable job and eclipsed the winning games total of the previous 4 seasons with a 9 – 17 record, following in 1987 with the Devils only winning season 14 – 12.

Such was their success that they moved into the much larger and modern Derwent Entertainment Centre.

David was always up for a party and some beers with the boys, but this changed in Hobart when he took the decision to become a non drinker and then slowly but very effectively became a counsellor for alcohol and drug addiction , mentoring many players over many years to change their direction in life, much to their benefit.

He has over the years also developed numerous close relationships , he is after all a guy that is very easy to like. I find nothing better than spending some time just talking Basketball with him .

One of his friendships is with Nick Nurse , the Championship winning Coach with the Toronto Raptors , where Doc has also been a mentor as well as a friend , they talk very regularly throughout the NBA season.

But it is where he clearly established himself as the Doyen of recruiters for the NBL that I know him best , the list is truly remarkable.

Overseas Basketball Services

In doing this he established his company – Overseas Basketball Services and for 20 years assembled an amazing list of clients , players and every NBL Club worked with him at some stage.

In order to properly assess players , he would conduct trial camps in the USA , where interested players would try out and compete for import spots , including in the NBL , so his recruiting was by no means restricted to Australia.

Adkins said recently – “ I tried to be very careful about the young men that I recruited and to select a player which fitted the NBL club’s job description and requirements . The formula held up for over two decades “
Doc was totally honest in his description of each player and you always knew exactly what you were getting .

No Doc Adkins player ever suffered from – Trans Pacific Shortening Disease – that is where a player gets on the plane in Los Angeles at 6’7” tall and gets off in Australia at 6’ 4” , how many times have you seen that happen?

He also never sent a player rehabilitating from injury, which we in Adelaide saw happen, for example , remember Orlando Phillips and Jo Jo English, who despite great reputations , both turned up recovering from Knee injuries, a shadow of their reputation, but who again had very successful careers in their years after Adelaide.

It is 100% clear that the NBL and Australian basketball in general benefitted enormously from the impact of the US imports and Doc played a leading role in this.

I seriously doubt that you would be seeing the number of Australian now in the NBA or the rapid rise of Australia in World rankings without his input and the role that the import players had in this.

USA Players In NBL

Here is the list of USA players that he has recruited to play in the NBL –
George Abrams – AAABL
Jeff Aces – Hobart Devils
Mick Allison – AAABL
Rick Allison – AABL
Paul Anderson – AAABL
Brian Banks – Brisbane Bullets
Greg Bergland – AAABL
Adrian Boyd – WA State League
Charles Brunson – AAABL
Cal Bruton – Brisbane Bullet , Geelong , Hobart , Perth
Steve Carfino – Hobart Devils , Sydney Kings
Mark Cassidy – AAABL
Kirk Chastain – AAABL
Dan Clausen – Adelaide 36ers
Gordon Clements – AAABL
James Crawford – Geelong Cats , Perth Wildcats
Donnie Creamer – AAABL
Ronnie Creamer – AAABL
Donnie Ray Cruise – Newcastle Falcons
Jerry Dennard – Newcastle falcons , Hobert Devils , Adelaide 36ers
Mario Donaldson – Sydney Kings
Tad Dufelmeier – Canberra Cannons
Jene Dunbar – Cairns Taipans
Wayne Engelstad – Hobart Devils
Mike Epps – AAABL
Patrick Fairs – Illawarra Hawks
Curt Forrester – Sydney kings
Tom Gerhardt – Brisbane Bullets
Tim Glass – AAABL
Carl Gonder – WA State League
Ricky Grace – Perth Wildcats
Chuck Harmison – Nunawading Spectres, Coburg Giants , West Sydney West Stars , Illawarra Hawks
Elliott Hatcher – Illawarra Hawks
Tim Hatchett – SEABL
Don Heibenthal – AAABL
Kelvin Henderson – Bankstown Bruins
Dan Hickert – Brisbane Bullets , Perth Wildcats
Mark Hiatt – AAABL
Gary Hopkins – AAABL
Larry Hotaling – WA State League
Lenzy Houston – AAABL
Joe Hurst – Hobart Devils
Craig Jackson – AAABL
David Johnson – Vic State League
Darryl Johnson – Townsville Crocs
Bill Jones – Adelaide 36ers
Michael Jones – Illawarra Hawks
Ricky Jones – Townsville Crocs
Frank kaminsksy – Vic State League
Wayne Krelow – Sydney Kings
Bruce kucera – Sturt – SA State League
Andre LeFleur – Illawarra Hawks
Bennie Lewis – Illawarra Hawks
LeRoy Loggins – Brisbane Bullets
Chad McLendan – Gold Coast Cougars
Wayne McDaniel – Adelaide 36ers , Hobart Devils
Brad Miley – Geelong Supercats
George Morrow – Newcastle Falcons
Jeff Mosher – AAABL
Walter Murray – Geelong Cats – VBA
David Nelson – Canberra Cannons
Dwayne Nelson – Adelaide 36ers
Phil Nolin – AAABL
David Nurse – SA State League
Kevin Ollis – AAABL
Ray Owes – Townsville Suns
Lawson Pilgrim – AAABL
Rod Popp – Cairns Taipans
Jason Reese – Hobart Devils
David Robinson – Adelaide 36ers
Billy Ross – Cairns State League
Derek Rucker – Brisbane Bullets
Jeff Santasiero – AAABL
Tom Shafer – Adelaide 36ers
William Shain – AAABL
Kirk Shawver – AAABL
Melvin Thomas – Illawarra Hawks
Guy Thompson – Geelong Cats VBA
Marcus Timmons – Melbourne Tigers , Perth Wildcats , Illawarra Hawks , Adelaide 36ers
Leon Trimmingham – Adelaide 36ers , Sydney Kings
Troy Truvillion – Newcastle Falcons
Clarence Tyson – Townsville Crocs
Jeff Warren – Townsville Crocs
Alonzo Weatherly – Illawarra Hawks
Greg Wolf – AAABL
Chuck White – NBL , CBA
Donald Whiteside – Hobart Devils
David Winslow – Adelaide 36ers
Pop Wright – Newcastle Falcons
Terry Youngbauer – Newcastle Falcons

Wow , what a list!


Some interesting notes –
– Many of these players returned to the USA and played in the NBA
– A substantial number of these players have remained in Australia and continued to be very involved in Basketball
– Many of these players married in Australia and have had children that have become quality players as well , such as CJ Bruton , Ben Simmons , Jonah Bolden , Xavier Cooks to name but a few.

So if you don’t agree with the influence that Dr David Adkins has had on the NBL in Australia , then you don’t understand the History of the NBL or you are very difficult to impress .

Doc , it’s been a great ride over these past 40 years , has been great to know you and call you a friend , may we share many more years spinning the yarns together and as you know they all get better and better as time moves on .

Malcolm Simpson – Colleague and friend

Dr David Adkins – The Quiet American

4 Responses

  1. Thanks, Malcolm. We were blessed to be involved as pioneers from 1979 in the NBL
    when part of the fun was building interest and keeping the league going. Unpaid
    coaches and remarkably good players – imports who worked construction jobs, bottle shops
    at Aussie hotels, pumping gas, at prisons, etc. My first year at Hobart,
    I worked as a sales-PR rep for Merino, a local company which produced paper products.
    Steve Carfino, the Devils star, worked at a Canterbury clothing stop. His first day
    of work he parked a club car two blocks from his job. When he returned he
    found a parking ticket which amounted more than he had earned in wages that day.

  2. Thanks David , I have so many great memories of those days , I think form memory in the first year of the 36ers , I think their annual budget was $25,000 which included $6,250 from their major sponsor West End Brewery , you wonder now how we were able to survive let alone thrive , good days mate

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